Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Monday, March 28, 2016

China, Israel Deepen Economic Ties

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
This past January, hundreds of businessmen attended a China-Israel trade summit in Beijing. 
Amir Gal-Or, founder and head of Infinity Group, a China-Israel private equity firm, spoke about long-term innovation cooperation between China and Israel. 

He reminded listeners at the first ever China-Israel Technology, Innovation, and Investment Summit that both countries have viewed entrepreneurship as a key future growth strategy.

About 40 per cent of all venture capital flowing into Israel came from China in 2015, according to Ziva Eger, chief executive of the Foreign Investments and industrial Cooperation division at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry. “2016 will be much bigger than that,” she added, and may even double.

Lionel Friedfeld and Philippe Metoudi, authors of the 2015 book Israel and China: From Silk Road to Innovation Highway, contend that the two countries are perfect partners in this new era of globalization. 

They share strong and complementary competitive advantages with Israel contributing technology and innovation and China providing robust financial and manufacturing capability.

The recent establishment of Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, a partnership between China’s Shantou University and the Israel’s Technion, is a prime example of the attempt by the two countries to cooperate in higher education, training students in research and development.

Israel excels in fields where Chinese technology eagerly looks for breakthroughs. Modern agriculture, medical devices, and cyber security are among the sectors in which China is interested in developing partnerships.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited, the Chinese company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals, last year became an investor of the Israel-based venture fund Jerusalem Venture Partners, a venture capital firm known for its interest in cyber security.

China’s Bright Food closed a deal in 2015 to purchase a majority stake in Israeli dairy giant Tnuva.

And Fosun International, one of China’s biggest private conglomerates, acquired Israeli medical device firm Alma Lasers in 2013.

Israeli companies partnering with Chinese ones gain more than venture capital.  “It’s not only about money,” remarked Ophir Gore, head of the trade mission at the Israeli Embassy in Beijing. “It’s getting access to the Chinese market.”

Greater trade with China would also diminish the leverage Europe uses in its attempts to compel Israel to accept European Middle East policy, noted Alon Levkowitz, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Ramat Gan, Israel.

To facilitate economic cooperation in the Middle East and elsewhere, in 2014 China founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a counterweight to the U.S.-dominated World Bank, which Israel joined last year.

When China was a truly Marxist-Leninist-Maoist country, it was ideologically virulently “anti-Zionist.” Since that has now withered away, with China reverting to its classical Confucian culture, so has any lingering dislike of Israel.

The Real Reason for Trump Hatred

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
The Republicans will do anything to stop Donald Trump from winning their nomination.
On March 19 failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Trump “repulsive,” and added bigot, racist, and xenophobe for good measure. Let’s say all this is true. So how is it that this man has been on television, a popular figure in the news, and so forth, for decades? 

He was “The Donald,” a celebrity mogul and raconteur. Romney himself was pleased to get Trump’s endorsement in 2012.

Does it mean that Trump has become a completely different person since he began running for office? (Hitler, for instance, hadn’t been a run-of-the-mill celebrity before he “became” the Hitler who was a monster.) Or is this nothing but desperate attempts to destroy Trump by the establishment? 

And if it is the latter, the absolute frenzy is telling – they must be terrified of Trump because they obviously politically and economically have a lot to hide. After all, I don’t recall them being particularly worried about racism and xenophobia in the past.

The networks, which are owned by the same billionaires who hate Trump’s stands on securing the country’s borders, tightening the regulations on entry to the country, and putting an end to so-called globalization, which is destroying millions of American jobs, never have one good word to say about this man.

Such biased reporting is something unprecedented in television news; even Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, and Ted Cruz, a far-right intolerant bully, get ample positive coverage.

It is now asserted ad infinitum that the populist Trump is “a divider, not a uniter,” because of his stance on immigration. But when did it become illegitimate for a nation to control its borders and determine who can live within them? Why, otherwise, have a sovereign state at all? 

Of course the rich don’t mind having a continuing flow of undocumented workers to keep wages down. One little-known fact: Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower deported millions of illegal immigrants in order to give jobs to returning veterans after the Second World War and the Korean War.

And why have the country’s financiers and industrial barons come to feel it is entirely proper to move their enterprises to wherever in the world they can obtain the cheapest labour and obtain the greatest profits, while leaving behind the very people who worked to make those enterprises the successful companies they had become?

Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, was particularly notorious, destroying jobs by hollowing out companies and leaving behind huge debts, while he and his partners got fabulously rich.

It involved borrowing huge sums of money from Wall Street venture capitalists to take over existing firms. However, once all that debt was added, the company would fire workers and slash benefits to pay off all its new obligations, leaving it ripe to be resold by Bain at a huge profit.

In his new book Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads, travel writer Paul Theroux visits ruined decaying towns with abandoned businesses. In these depopulated places, manufacturing has fled, outsourced to China, India and Vietnam.

He found the people still there “as hard-up and ignored and hopeless as any I had seen in the world.”
Trump is promising “fair trade,” using import rules, tariffs and taxes, to punish unfair competition by such rivals as China to keep manufacturing jobs in America. He also wants to tax the profits big corporations make overseas. 

As well, he has attacked hedge-fund managers, and wants to rein in the nation’s five biggest banks, whose assets have increased exponentially in the past quarter-century.

His supporters want a new approach to capitalism, in which foreign trade partners must pay living wages and heed global environmental norms.

It was once considered normal that a government’s first loyalty was to its citizens and the national interest. It was also understood in the past that the preservation of a country’s culture and civil institutions was a necessity.

Unlike Romney is 2012, Trump isn’t writing off the “47 per cent” of Americans “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.” 

The elites in the Republican Party can’t tell the electorate that the real reason they are terrified of Trump is because of their own selfish interests, and would prefer even Hillary Clinton to him.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Anti-Trump Propaganda

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
If you've been watching MSNBC, CNN and other cable networks covering Donald Trump’s rallies you will have seen how they are manufacturing anti-Trump propaganda in a manner worthy of Vladimir Putin. It’s so blatant it’s shocking. 

Their whole emphasis has been on the potential for violence, to create the impression that Trump is like the pre-war British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, using goons to attack protesters. It’s a three-step process: first, you warn viewers that there might be violence at his rallies; then there is violence; and finally, you blame Trump for the violence.

I guess the earlier smears trying to tie him to the Ku Klux Klan or painting him as a Hitler haven’t worked well enough so now we have this.

As surely as the Council of Guardians vets candidates in Iranian elections, the liberal media and political elites have declared Trump ideologically out of bounds and unacceptable. They have all been “piling on,” to use a football expression.

The protests are planned and organized by those who fear a Trump nomination. And of course those coming to support Trump get enraged; they are probably people who have been angry for years at what has happened to their jobs, their kids, their schools, their cities, their lives. 

They and their concerns are ignored as America becomes ever more a plutocracy, with its politicians bought and paid for. (Read, for example, a New Yorker article in the March 14 issue about “The Billionaires’ Loophole,” detailing how the super-rich – billionaires -- manage to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.)

I think the so-called establishment fears Trump because he might take on their entitlements and their destruction of the American economy over the past three decades. It’s why they preferred Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and, especially, Marco Rubio, who are beholden to them.

Last summer Trump tweeted, “I wish good luck to all the Republican candidates who traveled to California to beg for money, etc. from the Koch brothers. Puppets?”

Indeed, a mouthpiece for the anti-Trump Republicans, Ross Douthat, in a March 13 New York Times op-ed, “The Party Still Decides,” has suggested that Republicans should not nominate Trump at the Cleveland convention, even if he has won the most delegates in the primaries and caucuses.

The Republican National Committee’s rule makers will meet a week before the convention, and, if the delegates approve rule changes, they may try to make winning harder for Trump. Presumably this would make either Cruz or, more likely, Kasich, the nominee.

This would be a political “coup d’ ├ętat,” and would destroy the party’s chances this November and for many years to come. 

Despite all of this, Trump won four of the five primary elections on March 15. Rubio is out, Cruz and Kasich are hanging on, but neither will amass more delegates than Trump.

In the Democratic Party race, Bernie Sanders brings up many of the same issues that Trump does, though they are seen as ideologically at opposite ends of the spectrum. 

But Hillary Clinton will make sure Sanders doesn’t get the Democratic Party nomination, leaving the field for mobilizing the disaffected to Trump, should he prevail as the Republican nominee.

Trump is battling the “official” ideology that unites all the other Republicans, as well as the Democrats. They are united in declaring that he isn’t “presidential” – whatever that means. 

Perhaps in the past they’d have said he wasn’t a “gentleman,” the same term used against the “backwoodsman” Andrew Jackson, in the 1824 and 1828 elections. 

One thing is certain: just as the elites in 1932 labeled the patrician Franklin Delano Roosevelt “a traitor to his class,” today’s Republican establishment no doubt feels the same about Trump.

If neither Trump nor Sanders makes it onto the November ballot, the anger within the electorate will keep simmering long past this election. 

Expanding China's Economic Ties

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal Pioneer
In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as Iran. The central object was to promote the Belt and Road Initiative, which will revive the ancient Silk Road. 

“Since China and Saudi Arabia forged diplomatic ties 26 years ago, our relationship has developed by leaps and bounds, with mutual political trust deepening continuously and rich results in co-operation in various fields,” Xi said upon his arrival in Riyadh. 

“I believe that my visit will be a friendly trip with fruitful achievements, thus conducive to lifting our co-operation in various fields to a new level,” he added.

China is the world’s largest oil importer and gets more than half of its crude from the region. Saudi Arabia has been China’s biggest supplier, and bilateral trade reached $69.1billion in 2014.

Xi and King Salman inaugurated an energy research centre in Riyadh and opened the Yasref oil refinery, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and China’s Sinopec.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported that the two companies signed a framework agreement for strategic co-operation and that the Saudi and Chinese governments had signed a memorandum of understanding to build a high-energy nuclear reactor.

In Egypt Xi, together with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, inspected the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, which is near the Suez Canal and 120 kilometers away from Cairo.

 The first phase, already completed, is an international industrial base which covers industrial projects, including processing and manufacturing, logistics, protective tariff, technological development, commerce and trade, and modern services. 

Xi said that 32 Chinese companies were now working in the economic zone, investing more than $400 million, and these figures would rise to 100 firms and $2.5 billion in the second phase of the project, creating about 40,000 jobs for Egyptians.

“China supports Egypt’s efforts to maintain stability, develop the economy and improve livelihoods,” Xi stated. 

Officials from the two countries signed 21 deals at a ceremony in Cairo, including a $1 billion financing agreement for Egypt’s central bank and a $700 million loan to the state-owned National Bank of Egypt for financing medium and small projects.

China and Egypt are also planning 15 projects in electricity, infrastructure and transport with investments that could total $15 billion, Xi added. 

Four months earlier, President Sisi had visited Beijing and emphasized just how seriously Egypt’s new government is about deepening ties with China. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation agreed to build and finance part of a new administrative capital that will be built to the east of Cairo. 

Sisi’s government expects the project to cost $45 billion over the next five to seven years. When finished, it will include government agencies and the president’s office as well as a new airport.

China is now Egypt’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade worth $11 billion. Like many of China’s trading partners, however, Egypt is concerned about just how imbalanced that trade is. 

Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour told the Xinhua News Agency that Chinese exports to Egypt account of $10.5 billion out of that $11 billion. 

“We are working hard to increase our exports to China and urge for opening the Chinese markets for our industrial and agricultural exports,” Nour remarked, and also said that Egypt would seek to encourage more Chinese investment. 

In December 2014, during an earlier trip to China by Sisi, China and Egypt upgraded their relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and a number of projects were announced, including the construction of a power plant in Suez Province and a new electric rail project to link Tenth of Ramadan City in Sharqia to Cairo.

To facilitate economic cooperation in the Middle East and elsewhere, in 2014 China founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a counterweight to the U.S.-dominated World Bank. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are both founding members.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Iraq, Libya, and American Interventionism

Henry Srebrnik, [Charlottetown, PEI] Guardian
Should the United States have helped bring down Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein? This is not ancient history and has a bearing on this year’s presidential election – it helped jettison Jeb Bush’s candidacy, in some respects thanks to his brother George W. Bush’s Iraq war.

Clearly, getting rid of the two were, by themselves, good things. Who could argue otherwise? They were bloodthirsty lunatics and killers. Their regimes were oppressive and dangerous.

But the next question is: did either George Bush in 2003, or Barack Obama, in 2011, actually think “regime change” would lead to some sort of democracy, or even just a better life, in those two countries? 

Were they really hoping to engage in the fantasy of “nation-building?” If so, they were foolish.

On the other hand, should they then have just left Iraq and Libya alone and allowed the tyrants to continue murdering their own people and stealing all their wealth, as well as interfering with their neighbours, as Saddam did in conquering Kuwait and going to war with Iran, and Gadhafi by supporting terrorism all over the world, and invading Chad? 

Given all that, Bush and Obama rolled the dice and hoped for the best. We now know the consequences.

The lesson I take from this is that countries like Iraq and Libya, which exist only on paper and are held together by a tyrant, will, after the removal of the dictator, almost certainly become anarchic entities run by, among others, armed militias, warlords, religious fanatics, and simple criminals. 

The Islamic State has taken over large swathes of Libya, which now comprises its largest base outside of Syria and Iraq.

Now we are in the realm of deep-seated political culture. After all, that’s what had already happened in Somalia after the demise of Siad Barre in 1991. Nor has Afghanistan become a “democracy” after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Maybe these were lessons that should have been learned.

In a sense, this has been a conflict between two schools of American foreign policy. One is political neoconservatism – oddly, a variant of Wilsonianian internationalism and the ideology of human rights – whose adherents believe that establishing democracy throughout the world is possible. They are willing to institute “regime change” to hasten the process.

The other strand is the “clash of civilisations” thesis propounded by the late Samuel Huntington. His followers are more often isolationists skeptical of intervening in places without the requisite political culture to support a liberal electoral order, at least for the foreseeable future.

The U.S. has seemed to oscillate between these two attitudes throughout its history.

These foreign policy options are not tied to specific parties. The modern neoconservative movement began in the Democratic Party in the 1970s, with people such as Senator Henry Jackson and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, while isolationists were more often found among Republicans.

Should either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio win the Republican nomination, most “hawks,” who backed George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, would prefer either of them to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the latter in fact  a “dove.” Many of them, including Elliott Abrams, Eliot Cohen, Michael Chertoff, Michael Mukasey and Dan Senor, have supported Marco Rubio.

However, many neoconservatives have threatened to support Hillary Clinton were Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee – to some extent, because they consider Trump less willing to defend Israel. They view her as more “hawkish” than him. 

“I’d vote for Hillary Clinton rather than Trump or Cruz,” declared Kenneth Adelman, a Reagan administration veteran who was a Pentagon adviser during the Iraq War. Another leading neoconservative, Robert Kagan, said the same thing.

The battle lines remain fluid.